It’s a curious thing, winter. All year long we plan our snowman, paper snowflake and snow fort designs, then weather-strip the windows, stack the wood, wax the toboggan, varnish the snowshoes, prime the hot tub, knit a jazzy collection of sleeping caps, and await the slightest sign of it. The first season’s snow is welcomed with heartfelt cheers (unless it occurs during October like the past few years here in the Northeast. Rrrggh!) and nimble steps. The entire family springs into action—equipped within seconds to fight the freeze.
But winter wears out its welcome superfast. The second time the snow falls, happiness at getting snowy may not be quite as enormous as that very first episode. The third time it snows, hurrahs are tempered and the steps are deliberately slower—a prized mitten has been lost, the hot cocoa tin is empty. And by the tenth time, the happiness may be significantly less enormous, until snow begins to offer very little happiness at all, and instead evokes prickling memories of funky wet socks and a bone-penetrating chill.
It’s at this point that alternatives to getting snowy are considered. Energy turns to indoor stuff—the obstacle course, the scavenger hunt, the indoor tent, the box fort—that keep small people busy. Creativity is at its prime—marble mazes, body scrubs, oobleck, felted soap, salt dough, finger puppets, swittens, flipbooks, homemade snow cones—if there’s anything as magnificent as a picnic in a sofa tent in winter, well, I don’t believe you. Unless your posse is not getting along. Then, there is nothing as terrible.
I know this much is true. In the winter, there are days that require getting as far away from the house as possible. If you live within the Hudson Valley like me and you’ve found yourself in a pickle, there are neat places to go—local places that are kid-friendly during those tricky wintery-mix days. Here are just a few:
Spanning 250 acres of Bronx Park, NYBG is home to an amazing collection of cozy indoor greenhouses. Don’t miss the Holiday Train Show (ending January 13th) or the upcoming Tropical Paradise exhibit (January 19th through February 24th) at the Haupt Conservatory.
The largest museum in Westchester County, the HRM complex includes six art galleries, a planetarium and weekend family science programs. Don’t miss the evening planetarium shows or the current exhibition of award-winning children’s book illustrator Jerry Pinkney (ending January 13th).
A visit the busiest train station in the country can perk up the entire family. Grand Central celebrates its 100th birthday in 2013—honor it with a visit, a slice from Two Boots and an over-the-top chocolate babka from Zaro’s bakery. Now, that’s a party!
Show off your inner Michelle Kwan during one of Bear Mountain’s public skating sessions. Rent skates or bring your own for hours of walley jumps and one-foot axels— dramatic crimson red sparkly dress bedazzled with feathered flames is optional. If weather permits, follow up with a post-skate cool down at the nearby trailside museum.
Winter is prime-time viewing season for cold-weather animals. Siberian tigers, sea lions, snow leopards and polar bears consider winter weather ideal. Warm up afterward with hot cocoa at the Dancing Crane Café.
This magical gem situated in the midst of an evergreen forest has 10 to 12 beautifully curated exhibitions each year. Its children’s activity center allows space for budding young artists to explore and create their own work. It’s just a 10-minute walk from the Katonah train station—the perfect day trip. Don’t miss the current exhibit on 3D animation featuring original drawings, storyboards, props and movie clips from Blue Sky Studios (ending January 20th).